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Gang of Youths’ Hidden Masterpiece: “Achilles Come Down”

Updated: Apr 13, 2021


Every once in a while, I hear a song that touches my heart enough for me to know it will never leave my mind. And coming from someone who can hardly remember what she had for breakfast earlier in the day, this means a lot. About a month ago, in the midst of a very dark time in my life, I came across the most wonderful, hidden gem my ears have ever heard: “Achilles Come Down” by Gang of Youths. This is my analysis of the song’s lyrics and musical depth.

First, the Australian indie-rock band’s lead vocalist, David Le'aupepe, pays a beautiful tribute to Homer’s The Iliad and Achilles’ tragic story, introducing a fictional scenario where the Greek hero is about to take his own life.



Achilles, come down, won’t you

Get up off,

Get up off the roof?

I found this first verse to be particularly stunning. As anyone who is familiar with Greek mythology already knows, Achilles is a warrior. This juxtaposition of mental “weakness” in someone with who is literally supposed to be god-like in physical strength is meant to create some cognitive dissonance. Was his “Achilles’ heel” more than just a soft spot on the bottom of his foot? Was it perhaps something far more sinister beyond what Homer made clear to us?

In addition to the lyrical confusion we are meant to feel at the start of the song, a hauntingly frantic cello solo behind Le’aupepe’s silky yet shaky voice expresses the anxiety that the speaker, and Achilles himself, must feel in the moment during which this song takes place. The speaker, whose identity we do not know for certain (although I will share my speculations later in this article) goes on to plead with his friend to consider those who love him dearly and, even more importantly, consider the future that lies ahead of him.

You're scaring us

And all of us

Some of us love you

Achilles, it's not much but there's proof

You crazy-assed cosmonaut

Remember your virtue

Redemption lies plainly in truth

The speaker knows that as a Greek, only two things will truly get through to his dear friend, Achilles: logic and morality. He knows it is not enough to simply appeal to his emotions, so he tells him, “there’s proof.” He asks him to think about all of the perils he has faced, jokingly referring to him as a “crazy-assed cosmonaut” to try and lighten the mood. His point? After slaying monster after monster after monster, are you really willing to be your own demise? After you’ve made it this far?

He further cites that the gods Achilles holds close are against suicide and that the only way he will feel whole again is to seek truth in the middle of the darkness he feels entrapped in.

I assume, having read The Iliad, that this despondence Achilles is experiencing comes on so suddenly as a result of losing his closest companion (and perhaps lover), Patroclus. I originally thought the ghost of Patroclus was the speaker due to the lyrics:

The self is not so weightless

Nor whole and unbroken

Remember the pact of our youth

However, if this was the case, then why would he then start threatening to jump with Achilles? He is already dead—the entire reason, I believe, that Achilles is so willing to throw his life away.

Where you go

I'm going

So jump and I'm jumping

Since there is no me without you

Whoever this speaker is, his boundless devotion to Achilles is very clear. It is also clear that this devotion is mutual, as the speaker knows that this threat to join Achilles in his suicide would affect him more deeply than anything else.

After this stern warning, the speaker turns to more gentle words of comfort for his suffering friend:

Loathe the way they light candles in Rome

But love the sweet air of the votives

Hurt and grieve but don't suffer alone

Engage with the pain as a motive

He tells him that it is okay to feel angry and to disregard the hyper-religious hypocrites, who live lavishly without a single discomfort yet ask him to simply light a candle and move on. But he begs Achilles to stay and find small joys in the throes of his sorrow, to “love the sweet air of the votives.” He begs him to find purpose in his pain, and “engage with the pain as a motive,” like Sisyphus, the Greek king who was damned to push a humongous boulder up a hill for all of eternity but never completely lost faith in himself.

After reading more about each of Gang of Youths’ members, it became very clear to me who the speaker of this song is, especially once the hook began. It is the singer, Le'aupepe himself.

Today of all days


How the most dangerous thing is to love

How you will heal and you'll rise above

Le'aupepe tells Achilles, perhaps while reading The Iliad, that on the day of his beloved Patroclus’ death, now and on its every anniversary, that he must not let his love become “dangerous.” Patroclus would not have wanted that; he would have wanted him to use it to heal. And Le'aupepe can give this advice from personal experience with mortality and suicidal ideation: he had to watch his ex-wife fight a violent battle with cancer as a boy of only eighteen, a battle that corroded their marriage.

In another of his songs entitled “Magnolia,” Le'aupepe recalls “June 3rd” as the date that he attempted suicide and his fellow band members, along with a law enforcement officer, had to talk him down from a more metaphorical roof—actually a train track—as he drunkenly stumbled close to the edge. He recalls his past love being one source of his becoming such a danger to himself, and I believe that this experience is what leads him to feel such a strong sympathy for Achilles.

I have my own “June 3rd”—January 7th. It is for this reason that I feel so strongly that no one that I love should experience the level of pain and hopelessness I did that day. I know exactly why Le'aupepe is so desperate in his attempts to stop Achilles from jumping, though I no longer feel he is referencing Achilles in a singular way.

While I, as an avid reader, acknowledge the bonds we can form with fictional people, I do not feel that such a bond alone would be enough for Le'aupepe to himself threaten suicide. I feel Achilles, to him, represents someone he knows personally. I think he catches himself, in mentioning “the pact of our youth,” in exactly what he is trying to persuade Achilles to see fault in: that is, “how the most dangerous thing is to love.” This is why his advice becomes more tender in the hook and he shifts gears to assure Achilles, or more likely a real-life friend of his, “you will heal and you’ll rise above.”

During the second half of this song, the speaker changes: it is now Achilles’ intrusive thoughts that are given voice to.




Jump now!

You are absent of cause

Or excuse

So self-indulgent

And self-referential

No audience could ever want you

You crave the applause

Yet hate the attention

Then miss it, your act is a ruse

It is empty, Achilles

So end it all now

It's a pointless resistance

For you

I, and millions of others, have received these same damaging words. Sometimes from myself, and sometimes from other people. I understand the power struggle, the crescendos and decrescendos in this song, of believing these deadly words. Then finding comfort in the kinder words of a friend, and then believing the harmful ones once more.

Le'aupepe aims to portray healing in a non-linear way, the way that it actually happens. This is clear through both the musical ups and downs in the song, as well as in the back-and-forth dialogue between Achilles’ intrusive thoughts and Le'aupepe’s panic-stricken words of love and compassion.



Just put down the bottle

Don't listen to what you've consumed

It's chaos, confusion

And wholly unworthy

Of feeding and it's wholly untrue

As the song nears its end, these two voices begin to interrupt each other, and the overwhelming noise it creates, while it might sound unpleasant to the listener, is meant to sound that way.

You want the acclaim

The mother of mothers (it's not worth it Achilles)

More poignant than fame

Or the taste of another (don't listen Achilles)

But be real and just jump

You dense motherfucker (you're worth more, Achilles)

You will not be more

Than a rat in the gutter (so much more than a rat)

You want my opinion (no one asked your opinion)

My opinion you've got

You asked for my counsel (no one asked for your thoughts)

I gave you my thoughts

While it first appears, due to the volume of these intrusive thoughts, that they will win against Le'aupepe’s, again, desperate pleas that Achilles choose life, Le'aupepe is given the final say. After this intense internal struggle Achilles’ must deal with as he hears both voices come together in unison to assure him, for better and for worse, “I’m talking to you,” the music becomes quieter and Le'aupepe is now the only voice he can hear.

Achilles come down,

Achilles come down,

Throw yourself into the unknown

With pace and a fury defiant

Clothe yourself in beauty untold

And see life as a means to a triumph

He encourages his friend to “throw yourself into the unknown,” rather than throwing himself into an early, unnatural grave. The final lyric of this song lets us know that Achilles does, in fact, come down.

Ah, it's more courageous to overcome

Le'aupepe is incredibly relieved that his friend has decided to step down from the roof. In this song, he reimagines the story of Achilles with a much less tragic end than Homer’s. The frantic cello I mentioned earlier becomes a soft, celebratory violin outro, and I can picture some Greek wartime friend of Achilles embracing his sobbing friend and praising his “courageous” decision “to overcome.” I can picture Le'aupepe, in a more modern setting, embracing his own troubled friend. And I can picture being embraced by my own loved ones on January 7th when I, too, chose to overcome the monsters that attempted to destroy my life.

The point of this work of art by Gang of Youths is to show us that while it may feel as though the June 3rds and January 7ths in our lives will drag on endlessly, there is hope and we are never alone. If we ever find ourselves on the roof like Achilles, it is so important that we reach out to someone who will help us to silence the voices in our heads telling us that we do not deserve to live, and to live happily. Because we do. Everyone does. And I know if I am ever in need of a compassionate voice to remind me of this, I can put my earbuds in and listen to Le'aupepe’s.

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I remember the first time i ever heard this song, i couldn't stop sobbing, it was as if the song was talking to me and the way you've described this song is absolutely beautiful, made me love this song even more (still dont know how you did that)

Replying to

Thank you so much for your kind words! You're making me want to start writing song reviews again! (:


I know this isn't new but this is such an incredible analysis!! This song makes me go insane in the best way possible (those last ten lines are almost my personal anthem at this point) and I love how you got into it all - the lyrics, the backstory, possible speakers, and the instrumental bits as well. And it got me emotional as well, I can imagine the scenario perfectly even though I've never been in a similar position myself. Thank you for this and I'm glad you're still here :)


kross kir
kross kir
Nov 22, 2022

After slaying monster after monster after monster, are you really willing to be your own demise? After you’ve made it this far?


Feuer Spei
Feuer Spei
Feb 06, 2022

I just wanna say thank you, i listened to the song and it touched me somehow so i wanted to know what it is about exactly, i'm not a native english speaker so i understood the main point of the song but i was confused, because i knew that Achilles didn't die of suicide and at first thought that it is maybe about another it really helped to read your analysis to get it better! I love the song, even if i didn't have a 3rd june or 7th January, which i'm of course grateful for, but i have a lot of friends right now who have depression and actually yesterday a person in my city didn't have someone…

Cat Gordon
Cat Gordon
Jun 29, 2022
Replying to

Hi! I know I am super late replying to this, but I just saw your comment and wanted to thank you for your kind words! (: I'm glad you enjoyed the song and my analysis of it! -Cat


Manny Jeckins
Manny Jeckins
Dec 09, 2021

Im really about to read all the Greek stories you said just so I can understand everything you said

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